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Carolina Panthers

Ask The Old Guy: Oh, and five

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CHARLOTTE — No, this is not going well. Only a numbskull would argue otherwise.

But as bad as 0-5 feels (and it feels very bad to the people who play, coach, and cheer for the team), it's still a symptom and not necessarily a disease. If they were 2-3 right now, it would certainly feel better, but the underlying issues would remain.

You can go through each of the five individual results and identify why the Panthers lost that particular game on the way to a winless start. Turn it over two or three times on the road, you're practically guaranteed to lose that particular game. Commit eight false starts in one day at Seattle, that's a hard trend to buck. You get the picture.

The challenge is identifying the problems that are real from the problems that are fake. I'm too old to spend much time worrying about fake problems (so maybe it's just as well that Twitter's dying in front of our very eyes).

Frank Reich's taking a beating right now for saying that his fourth or fifth receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (depending on what you call Laviska Shenault Jr.) not playing a snap Sunday was his fault. A fourth or fifth receiver not playing a snap is not a real problem; it's just the kind of thing that gets you yelled at when your team is 0-5. And eating that particular crap sandwich is what a leader does rather than vent publicly at the person who may actually be responsible for it.

There are problems, to be sure. Their offense doesn't yet match their personnel. Part of that's what happens when you Frankenstein together a power-blocking line and a new coaching staff with a different idea about running the ball, and then mix in injuries that likely have you starting your third different left guard and maybe your third or fourth right guard in Week 6, depending on what they do after the injury to Chandler Zavala which may or may not keep him off the field for a bit.

And injuries are a big part of this. Even though people like to say "injuries aren't an excuse," when you are without your two starting guards a week into the season, along with your best cornerback and your defensive signal-caller, that matters.

When you build around new people and turn over half the roster, you're going to have a very small margin of error. The Panthers haven't done the kind of things to capitalize on that small margin through the first five games. There are real problems in there, and enough of them to be concerning. The challenge is to find those and fix them, and not get caught up in the noise.


Why do we keep hiring these sorry coaches and coordinators that aren't doing anything to make our team better, and why do we have Josh McCown as a QB coach? He was never good as a QB, and we have him trying to coach someone else. We need a new general manager that's going to go get great players and hire better coaches and coordinators. As a fan, I'm calling for the head coach and offensive coordinator and QB coach to be fired after the loss today. — Samuel, Lexington, NC

There he is, FIRE EVERYBODY guy. He is neither uncommon nor alone. He just needs to see something done, whether it makes sense or not.

I'm just trying to figure out in what logical world does firing a bunch of people five weeks into a new administration make a lot of sense? Does Samuel here actually think that blowing up an offensive staff around a rookie quarterback is a good idea? What would that accomplish exactly? Who would you hire to replace them in October, and how would that new staff implement a game plan for Week 6 that would make things better? A smart person asked me if I thought James Campen was safe. I mean, he's one of the three to five best offensive line coaches in the NFL, so I would imagine so. This is what a losing streak does to people, though.

I'll publish just about any question that comes in here (within reason) if you have a real point, but if all you want to do is put a head on a pike and march it around the town square to make all the emotional people feel better, you're probably looking for some social media outlet to vent on instead.


Miles Sanders

OK, so things do not look good so far this season in pretty much all phases of the game. I'm sure you hear all of the time from Monday morning quarterbacks who say they know what we can do to fix things. Sorry, but this is another one of those times. I know there are a lot of things that would help Bryce Young, but I think the most significant thing would be a solid run game. One like we had the second half of last year. One that put up over 300 against Detroit. I know we paid a lot of money for Miles Sanders, but I have to say he has been nothing short of disappointing so far. I am, and have been, really impressed with Chuba Hubbard. I'm sure you love getting stats, but let's check out the data.

Chuba (35 carries for 154 yards, 4.4 avg) has been getting fewer carries than Sanders (61 carries for 190 yards, 3.1 avg) yet is averaging almost 1.5 yards more per carry. It looks like Sanders just runs right into people rather than cutting back and hitting a hole like Hubbard. Chuba is a bigger back and just looks like he is ready to fight for those extra couple yards. One could make the argument that Sanders (15 receptions on 24 targets for 81 yards, 5.4 avg) is a better option in the passing game, but those stats don't seem to make too much of a difference either (Hubbard 12 receptions on 14 targets for 57 yards, 4.8 avg). I know the O-line is banged up, and the backup guards have not been cutting it so far. Hopefully, this will get better when Austin Corbett comes back.

Short story long, I think we need to feed Chuba a little more and get back to the smash-mouth ground game to take a little pressure off the rookie. Keep Pounding! — Justin, Johns Island, SC

See, this is a real question.

The lack of a consistent vision for the ground game has been a consistent issue for them through five weeks, and some of that is structural, and some of that is situational.

As Justin noted, the stats paint a pretty clear picture. Sanders is a talented back, and there's a way in which he's the kind of back you want (assuming he hangs onto the ball). He's shifty and fast and put up a lot of numbers in Philadelphia.

But at the moment, it's hard to argue that Hubbard's not running better and deserves more opportunities. You get the sense that they'd like to (based on the fact Hubbard has played more snaps than Sanders the last two weeks), but when you're down three scores at halftime, it's kind of hard to commit to the run the way you might want to.

Hubbard's a more physical inside runner, the kind who can slam it up in there and get a positive result. Honestly, Shenault is too, and the snaps we've seen of him in the backfield suggest using him as a conventional big-back makes some degree of sense.

You can't just roll Sanders out to the curb on Tuesday morning; he's too talented for that. And if you think about the place he's from (Philadelphia), having a group of backs with complementary skills has always been the vibe, going back to when Duce Staley was one of them.

They still probably need to get it to Hubbard more often, but keeping Sanders in the mix is smart, also.

Chuba Hubbard


As a guy who remembers the Old Guy from back when he was the Young Guy, I'm hoping you will take my question. We always hear coaches and GMs and owners say we will play the players who give our team the best chance of winning. Are the Panther coaches and brass actually doing that? Really?!? Although I have hope, thoughts and prayers for the future of Bryce Young, is he really the better player ahead of Andy Dalton right now? I understand we want to get him reps, but maybe this is a year where we use dual QBs with Andy leading the way, and we let Bryce come in to learn in specific situations. At the rate we are going, I hate that we are going to give our #1, (probably) #1 draft pick in the 2024 draft to the Bears after trading a bounty to them. Maybe playing Dalton will give us a couple of wins, so we have a little life, and we are only giving up the third or fourth pick? Wish you the best OG from another OG. — Peter, Belmont, NC

I remember Good Time Pete, and yes, we were much younger then (though perhaps that's how we got to be so old now). And I like Pete, he's good people. In fact, I'll make him this week's Friend Of The Mailbag and get the appropriate honorarium on the way to him to prove my trust in his good nature.

But I don't understand the rush to get the guy you begged for the last half-decade off the field after five weeks.

Andy Dalton is quite good. He's 26th on the league's all-time passing touchdown list, he's still got the arm to move it downfield, and he played well enough in Seattle that I understand why people think this way.

But after going from the Husk of Cam Newton to Kyle Allen to Teddy Bridgewater to Sam Darnold to back to Newton to back to Darnold to Baker Mayfield and back to Darnold again, I can't imagine what the mail would have been like if Dalton was actually the guy. "Why are they dragging in another rental?" "When do we get off this wheel and find a young one?" Etc.

And you can't let the hypothetical slot of a pick somebody else owns determine your strategy. That choice belongs to the Bears now. Go with God. Whether it's first or 16th or 32nd shouldn't matter to the Panthers.

What matters is they wanted a young one. They went out and got one. Now, he's in the process of being a young one. Let him.

Andy Dalton, Josh McCown, Bryce Young


C'mon, Darin - you're better than these Bryce Young/Peyton Manning comparisons. For every Peyton Manning that turned it around, there are 15 Jamarcus Russells, Dwayne Haskins, Josh Rosens, EJ Manuels, JP Losmans, Blaine Gabberts, Blake Bortles, Mitch Trubiskys, Sam Darnolds, Ryan Leafs, and Zach Wilsons who never turn it around.

Manning failed in his rookie year, overtrusting his arm and taking chances downfield. Young doesn't take any chances at all, yet still turns it over.

Enough of that, though. So my question is this: have you ever had Cook Out at a location outside NC? They completely change the recipe for the Pork BBQ! It isn't even Pork BBQ; it's just pulled pork on bread. They also try to put BARBEQUE SAUCE on it. Not even kidding. I don't know if they think NC BBQ doesn't have mass appeal or what, but I kind of resent them for not sticking to their core product. If IKEA can sell Swedish meatballs in Mexico, then Cookout can sell NC Pork BBQ in Tennessee.

Sorry for the double rant. I did actually mean to ask a question, but I guess one didn't really come out. Uh, how's the family? — Jarod, Indianapolis, IN

Family's good, thanks for asking.

That Cook Out news is terrible. I had no idea. I celebrate the entire catalog of Cook Out. Anywhere you can say the words "side of corn dog" and not have the cops called on you is a beautiful place. Actually, going Quad Dog (the two hot dog tray with a double up side of corn dog) sounds pretty good right now. I can't speak to their organizational decision-making, but I do remember people telling me "Don't get above your raising" when I was growing up, and it sounds like what might be happening there.

Also, Jarod, as anyone who knows me would tell you, I most certainly am not better than that.

I mention Peyton Manning a good bit since he, you know, led the league in interceptions (28) and went 3-13 as a rookie starter. He turned out OK. It could also be Troy Aikman (0-11 as a starter, with twice as many picks as touchdowns (9-18). The short version is rookie quarterbacks commonly struggle.

And while we don't know how Bryce is going to turn out, I feel reasonably confident he's not going to end up like a lot of those names Jarod rattled off. If there was a common trait through the group, I'd say that a lot of them are what one wise old coach liked to refer to as "slow blinkers." That is, they don't process well when things speed up.

Young isn't having a great time of it now, and he's making some uncharacteristic mistakes. He's not the older, Hall of Fame Peyton Manning. He's also not the rookie one either. If comparing him to Peyton too soon is irresponsible, then I don't want to categorize what comparing him to some of those cats you named is.

Peyton Manning, Bryce Young


Hello Darin! Let me start off by saying that as someone who was born and raised in Alaska, reading your support of Fat Bear Week had me rolling and left me with some input that I feel is pretty important this week.

We are 0-5, and the fan base is frustrated. And while I, too, put on my Panthers Jersey every Sunday, cross all ten fingers and ten toes, and pray to the football gods we pull off a win. I also have a genuine perspective some of our fan base doesn't have.

Football is like Alaska winters. It's dark, it's cold, it's lonely, and it sure doesn't love you back. Sure, the start of the season is like the first snow. It's fun and pretty, and you can't remember why winter makes you miserable. Then you hit late December with your fifth straight day of negative temperatures and three feet of snow in your driveway, and you suddenly wonder if you'll ever see the sun again and ponder why you do this to yourself.

The thing is, I think our sun is closer to us than spring is to Alaska. Bryce gets better each week; he is calm in the pocket and shows leadership. Brian Burns, Frankie Luvu, and Sam Franklin Jr. are making plays each week. And man, do I love me some Adam Thielen. His reliability to Young almost reminds me of a Mr. 88 (I say almost because no one will top Olson in my heart.)

Is this a bunch of rambling? Sure. But I think you needed someone to have your back with positive vibes and to remind our fan base why we Keep Pounding. Our guys in the locker room need our support, and I think we can do better.

Tell the guys to Keep Pounding, I'll be watching all winter long in Alaska! — Brit, Anchorage, AK

Speaking of public service, Brit has done an important one.

Both of these bears are amazing, and just like when I volunteer with the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections, I can't tell you how to vote, but I absolutely encourage you to vote.

Fat Bear Week is amazing. I can't believe it's almost over. But take a minute to savor the bears in all their majesty before they bed down for a few months. (Which sounds like a good idea. Maybe I'll declare the bye Fat Darin Week. Wait, that's every week, but especially after a Quad Dog Tray.)

Between the three first-half turnovers and the Chandler Zavala injury early, last week's game took on a "other-than-that-Mrs.-Lincoln" quality. I'm not going to sit here and tell you leading a couple of fourth-quarter touchdown drives against a defense that was trying to get home as quickly as possible is the most meaningful thing in the world. But it's not nothing, either.

Bryce has done some things over the course of the season to suggest he's getting better at this. Should he continue along that trajectory, this season will have been a positive one, regardless of the record. And the sun will eventually rise. Even in Alaska.


Great job always, Darin. Glad to see Bryce's timing is back, a lot better than the Vikings game! The play-calling looks a little better, and no-huddle definitely helps.

Fans are angry, and we all get it! Frank Reich mentioned his positive attitude during a press conference recently. Sometimes, that leads to assuming things will always work out! What if angry or mad Frank appears? Do you think it would work? Also, tell me Tarik Cohen is ready! Please. — Don, Trinity, NC

Yeah, letting Bryce get in a no-huddle and do his thing didn't hurt. You can't run no-huddle the whole time for the same reason you can't make the whole plane out of black box, but it's a definite wrinkle they can use.

I think if Angry Frank rolled in and started yelling at people on the sidelines or in press conferences, there are people who might enjoy it. But some people just want to see performative anger; that's why pro wrestling and political television are so popular.

In fact, I remember the time Tony Dungy lost his mind and just started dog-cussing Warren Sapp, and that day Tom Landry just went to town on Roger Staubach right there in front of everybody. Oh wait, I don't remember that because that never happened.

If you're an emotional guy, it's OK to be emotional if it's genuine. If it's an act, people will know it's an act. And there might not be a place on Earth where a phony will be spotted more quickly than in an NFL locker room. Frank Reich might be a lot of things, but an overreactor isn't one of them. If you want to build something stable, hiring a stable person to run it might be a good idea. Dungy did OK for himself without freaking out all the time.

As for Cohen, we'll see. Practice squad guys aren't on the injury report, but in the last few practices, he wasn't on the field during the period when it's open to the media. So it might be another minute before that comeback story makes its way back.


The Coach likes to refer to seeing positives in all these losing efforts. The most positive thing I saw Sunday was the Fox TV graphic showing Troy Aikman went 0-11 his rookie year, and in his first three games, he threw one TD and six interceptions. However, Troy wasn't drafted to a team that everyone thought was a QB away from being a playoff contender. But I digress. How about putting your research team to work and giving us the rookie stats of other Hall of Fame QBs. As a PSL owner since 1997, I've supported the team through the many down seasons. But it's getting harder in my old age. I need a reason to hope! — Steve, Landrum, SC

"Everyone thought" is doing a lot of heavy lifting in there. I'm sure there were people who thought this might go a certain way. I thought, in the best-case scenario, this was an 8- or 9-win team at best. But that's usually enough to contend in this division. Every trailer park gets to have an HOA, and somebody has to be president.

But young quarterbacks are generally going to young quarterback, until they don't. It's hard to do an apples-to-apples since not every quarterback started as a rookie.

For instance, Kurt Warner played in the Arena League and Europe and watched for a year with the Rams before he was plopped into one of the greatest offenses of all time in 1999. (STORY TIME WITH UNCLE DARIN ALERT — That season, the Panthers would eventually play the Rams after starting quarterback Trent Green blew out his knee. Then-coach George Seifert was mal-appropriately asked by one of my colleagues [who shall go nameless], "How do you think the Rams will respond to the death of Trent Green?" Without missing a beat, George replied: "I didn't realize it was that bad.")

Along those lines, Brett Favre had a burner year in Atlanta before he started in Green Bay, Warren Moon had six years in the CFL, and Joe Montana had two years as a backup. But there are a lot more Bob Grieses (3-7 in 1967, with 15 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, and 61.6 rating) and Dan Foutses (0-5-1 in 1973, 6-13, 46.0) and John Elways (4-6 in 1983, 7-14, 54.9) and Aikmans (0-11 in 1989, 9-18, 55.7) than Dan Marinos (7-2 in 1983, 20-6, 96.0). But that stuff is so old all the pictures are in black and white.

John Elway


I've tried everything I can think of to help this team win. On different Panthers game days, I've worn a Panthers jersey, a Panthers t-shirt, a Roaring Riot t-shirt, or a plain t-shirt. I've watched the game sitting on the sofa, sitting in a chair, sitting on a barstool, or sitting in the stadium. I've snacked during the game and skipped snacks. Drank beer, and drank a lot of beer. (If not drinking during football is what it takes to win, ... well, at least we had some good years in the past.) Nothing works. I can't seem to find the perfect combination of rituals to help this team out.

I try to recall what I did every week during the 2015 season to bring this team such profound success, but I was much younger then (under 50!) and as the poignant group of poets and philosophers known as "Bowling For Soup" so eloquently sang, "Getting Old Sucks, But Everybody's Doing It." In other words, I don't remember. Ah, well, I guess I will keep trying to find the magic combination again.

In the meantime, it makes me feel better to see that Bryce and the offense got a few more chances to get some scrimmage time late in the game yesterday. I think it is important that they get more live reps to accelerate the cohesion of the offense. I don't see us winning next week, but the schedule seems a little more forgiving after the bye. Maybe then we will see some rapid improvement. — Chris, Greensboro, NC

Great, now we know who to blame, gang. It was Chris' fault all along.

This would qualify as a fake problem since we all know Chris' drinking habits don't correlate to anything, including his current mature adulthood.

Actually, I'm fascinated to know more. If you have a particular superstition that is good and valid that actually works, I'd love to hear it. May go invest in a couple of Powerball tickets this week.


Is there any chance the Panthers bring back Marquan McCall or sign another space-eater nose tackle? What they have is not working. New rushing records are being set each week by our opposition's running backs. Thanks. — Gary, Summerville, SC

Probably not McCall (who remains available), but I can't rule out the line looking different in the future. But I don't think they're looking for that body type at the position.

Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero doesn't necessarily employ a wide-body nose tackle in his system. They would like to get bigger, but more in terms of length than girth.

I could see Chris Wormley up from the practice squad at some point. He tore his ACL last year after playing some solid football for the Steelers and the Ravens in the past.

They clearly miss Shaq Thompson in the middle of that defense, though. Losing your signal-caller for the year in Week 2 was obviously bad and the kind of real problem it's hard to bounce back from.


Hey Darin! I am a big music fan, and more recently, a big fan of '70s rock and roll after spending significant time with my grandparents while they were sitting in the car with me during my quest to get 60 driving hours. As we were Rockin' down the highway (get it?- it is a reference to the Doobie Brothers' 1972 hit), I was listening to another Doobie Brothers hit, "Another Park, Another Sunday," and thought the lyrics really could describe what it is like to be a Panthers fan right now as the lyrics go:

Another lonely park, another Sunday (Another Sunday, another loss and halt of the hype train)

Why is it life turns out that way

Just when you think you got a good thing (Bryce Young)

It seems to slip away (we have lost 5 games)

It's warm outside, no clouds are in the sky (game day)

But I need a place to go and hide (me being embarrassed about watching the team)

I keep it to myself

I don't want nobody else

To see me cryin' all those tears in my eyes (me crying in despair after the game)

(End Lyrics)

These lyrics seem a little dull. However, I do not want to continue to be upset about this team- I want to be optimistic! Do you know of any songs that have lyrics that symbolize the positive future of this team? I know that myself and several other fans will feel much better before and after the game when listening to a motivational song full of hope. — Zach, Charlotte

There's a lot to be worried about, including the fact Zach is out there on these streets. Be careful out there, especially you on the sidewalk, because Zach's in his Doobie Brothers phase. (Hopefully, he doesn't try to bootleg record a concert with his friends Roger, Rerun, and Dwayne, because that's a very special episode none of us need [ALMOST 50-YEAR-OLD POP CULTURE REFERENCE ALERT]

As for music selections, you can't go wrong with Side 1 of Led Zeppelin IV. Wait, . . . checks notes, . . .that's a different kind of advice. [ANOTHER ALMOST 50-YEAR-OLD POP CULTURE REFERENCE ALERT]

Maybe you could go with Foghat's "Slow Ride," but that's not exactly right either. I might have to crowdsource this one. In the meantime, GET BACK TO DRIVER'S ED CLASS, ZACH.


Aloha Darin, thank you for the Mailbag; it is thoroughly enjoyable and makes me laugh quite often. Starting the season 0-5 sucks, but it seems to me like the whole thing is coming together, even if it spits and sputters as it does. Injuries obviously complicate the process, but I feel like taking all of that into account, this thing they're building could suddenly roar to life at any moment. Am I hopelessly optimistic, or is there really a silver lining to these dark clouds of an ugly start? The last couple of games seemed like games we should have/could have won, and Bryce looks to be getting better when not on his back (I often say it's hard to play quarterback on your back). Instead of being demoralized by this start I find myself believing that the team is going to make this happen and really surprise people when they do. Thank you again for the 'Bag; keep them coming! — Elijah, Kailua Kona, HI

Well, you can't come back from a 28-3 halftime deficit to beat the Oilers in overtime of the playoffs without being down 28-3 at halftime, I guess.

You could be right, Elijah; it could all be about to turn around and into something amazing. Or maybe not, who knows. At least I know your locale is better right now, and I'm guessing your mood is, too.

(And for reasons I can't explain, I now have John Prine's "Let's Talk Dirty In Hawaiian" stuck in my head. You're welcome.)



I think it's probably best for everyone to turn off the mental jukebox and go lightning round, brought to you by the patron saint of the lightning round Jeff from Fuquay-Varina, to close it out this week.

Hey man, great pleasure to even be able to reach out to you with a question or any concerns with my heart "CAROLINA PANTHERS." What is your take on CAM NEWTON'S return to Carolina as far as the talent he had to work with and considering the injuries that were in place then? I look at the protection that was lacking for a QB and the short timelines to get to know the offense. Today, we have the talent and protection with more knowledge and experience that could've helped him turn around this slight chance of a record to make the playoffs back then. I wished he had a better opportunity to show he's worthy to come back home and show out once more. In my opinion, I'd say "third time's a charm". I'd love to see him come back and shock the world. — James, Mount Olive, NC

It would definitely shock me.

(And I say that respectfully, as someone who believes Cam Newton deserves to be in the Hall of Fame one day for changing the game and doing things we hadn't seen before.)

What are the chances that Burns is still a Panther after the trade deadline? — Jeff, Concord, NC

I'm sorry, all "what are the chances" questions go to, wait, who was it again?

How do you think the Panthers will progress through the balance of the season, taking the current roster and injuries into consideration? — John, Gastonia, NC

Gradually, since there are 13 more weeks of this. Also, by plane.

Is it too late to get Sam Donald back? — Joseph, Loves Park, IL

Sadly, Sam Donald is off the market. Last I heard, he had quite a connection going with Donald LaFell. I think Dick Stockton was calling that game.

Why? Just why? — Chase, Greensboro, NC

Of all the fake issues this week, this is the realest. I wish I had a good answer for you. The best I can offer is "Cottleston Pie" from Winnie the Pooh. Which, actually, is way better than probably anything I've written today.

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